Shireen M Mazari As if the US governments diktat to our leaders was not enough of an issue of national concern, the US media has been targeting Pakistan in the blackest terms possible with no regard for facts or realities on the ground - barring citing a few like-minded locals who have their own links to the US Establishment. There is an underlying prejudice and neoimperial tone that tends to pervade stories published in the US mainstream east coast media. Last week I received an interesting call followed by an email from The Washington Posts Islamabad-based correspondent Karin Brulliard, who sent a set of questions wanting a response from me in my capacity as Editor of TheNation. After reading the questions, my views of the intrinsic linkage between the US government and at least the Pakistan-centred US media representatives were confirmed. What was equally evident was the rather imperial tone in which the questions were framed so I decided to let the readers know how the US media representatives deal with the Pakistani media because it does reflect a particular arrogant mindset. To begin with, as we in Pakistan are only too well aware, The Washington Post has hardly been publishing balanced articles on Pakistan - in fact some have bordered on the hysterical in defaming the Pakistani state. One had thought this was due to ignorance or a lack of awareness of ground realities, but now that one knows there is actually a WP correspondent in Islamabad, clearly there is another agenda. But let me first admit that we are all susceptible to human error and as far as we in this paper are able, we do concede to and admit our errors once they have been proven. After all, we do not claim infallibility, unlike the Western media Now to show the imperial manner of asking the questions which are all premised on the correctness of the US Embassys position and effectively seeking to tell us how to do our job. Too bad the WP does not itself follow the unsolicited advice given to us For instance, I am informed that the Embassy issues press releases, termed correction for the record, which according to Ms Brulliard are often responses to 'articles in The-Nation and she seeks to know how we handle these What she is unaware of is that most of these are simply posted on the US Embassy website which it is not our duty to visit and when these press releases are sent to us they are sent to individuals rather than formally to the Editor. Despite this, of course if we feel here is a grain of truth in them, or even otherwise, we are gracious enough to print them but if they contain merely a denial with no facts to prove this, then we will also point that out. Perhaps that is why they rarely send us any press release directly and perhaps the WP correspondent should have checked this point out first before gobbling up whatever was fed to her by her Embassy I found her question do you run corrections or follow ups with the Embassy most amusing since it assumes one is constantly needing to seek the indulgence of the US Embassy She then also reveals that Embassy officials cite what they describe as a lack of professionalism among some segments of the Pakistani media which they feel does not provide balanced articles. This is a laugh given where the question is coming from but it begs two questions: one, what do the Americans mean by balanced? And, two, can they inform the WP to at least occasionally post a balanced article on Pakistan or even Palestine. I for one can recall a recent event, the Freedom Flotilla, it was none other than the mainstream US print media that referred to those aboard as militants As for stories on Pakistan, there are no shades of grey in the black even Since the US media does not even know what balanced means, I see no reason to dignify this particular WP question with an answer What really made it evident that there is a close working relationship between the WP correspondent to the US Em-bassy was the question that demanded how I responded to the correction issued by the US Embassy regarding our story entitled Vicious US agenda in garb of training, aid relating to weapons caught on US Embassy personnel who had no proper permission for their transportation. According to Ms Brulliard, the US Embassy correction stated that permission was given to transport the weapons. The assumption is that our police were lying - because our story cited police sources on why the two personnel were stopped in the first place. Too bad she did not check out the Embassys story with the facts on the ground by asking the Islamabad police for their version also. Then the masterpiece query as to how this represented a stark reflection of the USs dubious agenda Well, I guess we will always have our varying interpretations of the US agenda in Pakistan just as the US media has its own, unchecked on the ground, interpretation of what the Pakistani state is up to at various levels The only difference is, we check from official sources and if the police confirm a piece of information, we have no reason to doubt it, given how careful the Pakistani police are in dealing with the Americans in the first place. And if that was not enough to nail us evil non-professional, biased media people of Pakistan, then the final query as to why we publish pictures and identities of US personnel because we endanger their lives, it seems that the underlying objective here is to allow US personnel to go about their business, suspicious though it may be, totally unchecked. That cannot happen and if we see anyone doing something suspicious, it is our job to report it. After all, there have been countless stories of US and other foreign media persons breaking the law of the land by going to areas for which they have not had visas, and some of them posing as scholars (I myself fell victim along with the HEC, to this scam by an American journalist while at the Institute of Strategic Studies). So should Pakistan and its media allow these folk the right to be beyond the law? I am also asked how I see our coverage of the US and its policies in Pakistan and I think I do not need to answer that since our paper reflects our perspective most clearly. We are not afraid to take clear positions in what we perceive (and we concede that beyond the core issues there can be varying perceptions which are certainly reflected in the Pakistani media) is the countrys national interest. Equally, we like most Pakistanis, are far more willing to listen to the alternate viewpoint and accommodate outsiders, but clearly there has never been any reciprocal approach by the US media on this count. So I say to Ms Brulliard and her colleagues, before you cast aspersions on us, take a good hard look at your own actions and reports and seek the meaning of balanced coverage on our nation. There was an interesting childrens story The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley in which there was a character called do as you would be done by. It would have helped the US if this book had been made compulsory reading in their schools